The 4th Annual Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival wrapped up a few weeks ago with another impressive crowd, despite the crisp air and the blustery winds. That finale headlined almost an entire week of amazing featured wine experiences centered around the wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail. From the Monticello Wine Cup Awards on Thursday to the festival itself on Saturday, the historic area of Charlottesville, VA radiated with local pride, and thousands of wine-loving visitors, and locals alike.
The wine was universally popular (look for our review of the festival wines on our blog in May), but the real treat for festival-goers was the ability to get up close and personal with the winemakers and winery representatives.
For a good many the wine trails feature week is exhausting. Signs of relief are all too apparent towards the end of the festival from those that put so much time, and energy into making each experience memorable. For those of us that serve as unofficial Virginia Wine Ambassadors, attending almost every other affair; while it is very enjoyable – we too felt the drain as the festivities came to a close.
Marking the official start of the Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival, Thursday evenings “Monticello Wine Cup Awards” treated the crowd to delicious bites and pours of some of Virginia finest vintages. The Jefferson Theater is a beautiful venue, which was complimented by the fantastic live music.
There were several awards presented during the evening. Barboursville Vineyards secured The Monticello Cup for their 2010 Petit Verdot Reserve. Additional awards included Michael Shaps Wineworks for their Viognier 2015 as the Top Rated White Wine, and honorary emeritus board member status was presented to Stone Mountain Vineyards’ Chris Breiner.
The climax, the Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival, itself, playing host to just under 2100 ticketed folks according to festival representatives – considering, the less than desirable weather on the day of the festival the small decline in ticket sales from previous years was still a welcomed number. Bundled in coats and jackets, hats, gloves and scarves attendees were overheard more than once reconfirming satisfaction with their decision to attend the festival despite the weather.
An important part of the festival’s goal and claim to fame is to provide an environment rich in opportunity for people to understand more about the wineries and wines. We wanted to put that claim to the test, so we sent our “Savvy Sipper”, Erica Chappell, creator of the blog #757LikeATourist into the festival with glass in-hand.
“Virginia wine festivals are getting to be too much due to the overwhelming crowds and lack of opportunity to communicate with the pourers,” Erica says. “The Taste of Monticello has definitely aided in my decision to be more choosey about the type of wine festivals I attend in the future – though, I am sure none will compare to the this one. “
Erica shared a few important key points about the festival:
- Pouring only two wines, makes the experience less overwhelming for the taster, for both the palate and in terms of time when obtaining information that is felt valuable.
- Two wines equal less wait time in line for a taster. Other festivals wait times can span ten minutes or more due to the number of wines being poured.
- The urgency is more relaxed for pourers, tasters, and those waiting to taste. Everyone is more patient, making it easier to have a more well-rounded and enjoyable wine tasting and overall festival experience.
- Club members and barrel owners were often doing the pouring, which allowed for a view of the wine from a consumer’s standpoint. There’s a difference in receiving an opinion from a person who spends money at a winery vs. an individual who earns money from a winery. Conversing with club members and barrel owners provided a clearer idea of the experience one would achieve at a winery.
- Producing fewer than 1000 cases can make it difficult for a winery to participate in festivals. Enhancing the experience was the ability to taste wines from some of the smaller local wineries you rarely hear about, and probably would only think to visit if you happened upon them in your travels.
The weather certainly did not help out this year, but I believe this event is going to grow and blossom over the next several years with a bit of tweaking and the addition of more unique experiences aimed at showcasing the wineries and the wines along the trail.
Next year’s exact festival date has yet to be determined, but Erica left us with a few savvy “TIPS” for those planning to attend.
– Grab the VIP ticket. It is worth it! Use the first hour to taste the wines on the floor before the crowd enters. After the general admission opens, head for the VIP section and sample the wines available exclusively to VIP members, and enjoy the amazing spread of food.
– If VIP is not your thing, general admission will not be a let-down. There’s plenty of space to spread out a blank and/or chairs on the lawn while you relax and enjoy your favorite bottle of wine from your favorite winery.
– If your plans are to hit up the food trucks, there is plenty variety ranging from vegan to soul food. Get to the to the trucks early or you just might miss out on their more popular dishes.
Remember, Virginia’s weather is always a surprise, so come prepared for whatever Mother Nature decides to grace us with on the festival day. Don’t forget to view our complete photo album of the festival click here.